There’s an awful lot of time being spent in some corners of the tech space savaging the display in Google’s new Pixel 2 XL, and increasingly I’ve found myself annoyed, and now almost bemused at it. People might’ve forgiven a bit of a misstep last year, as Google was “new” to the smartphone game (at least insofar as selling phones under their own brand), but in 2017, with a year of direct experience (and more than a decade of watching others do it) people are — rightly — a bit more critical. Nowhere is this moreso than with the Pixel 2 XL, which comes with a premium price-tag, and so people are expecting the best.
If you read reputable tech reporting, you’ll undoubtedly have come across a number of issues which are getting significantly more air-time than I’d suggest they should. The issues include:
- Colour shift: This is particularly noticeable when the background / dominant display is white, and can be observed by tilting the Pixel 2 XL slightly off straight on. That is, if you view the display from anything other than perpendicular, you may notice a subtle shift from white to blue (or in some cases even red). There are other phones that have done this in the past, and though we’ve not seen it ourselves, we understand the very same thing happens on the LG V30 (which uses the same display).
- Grainy/muddy colours: Reportedly, with the display brightness down low, flat colour areas can appear to have a slightly grainy texture instead of being a solid, flat colour. In truth, I’ve only seen this in the most extreme situations, and to replicate it, I had to drop the brightness as low as it would get, and literally jam the Pixel 2 XL into my eyeballs. It wasn’t discernible otherwise.
- Washed-out display: So many smartphone users are accustomed to what Samsung has done of late, with its ultra-vibrant colours to the point of being over-saturated. Having a Galaxy S8, I can confirm that – yes – the colours on the Pixel 2 XL are simply not so vibrant. However, if you were to ask me, I’d say they’re more accurate which is something I value a little bit more. Better yet, to confirm that you’re not crazy, you can grab a recent Samsung phone, turn off the colour enhancement, and the colouring between it and a Pixel 2 XL will be virtually identical (I’ve tried).
Why has this come about?
In short, LG’s displays are widely accepted as simply not as high a quality as those made by Samsung. Their pOLED (plastic OLED) technology is not quite up to scratch when put along Samsung’s SAMOLED display, and that’s probably entirely fair — Samsung have been doing this a lot longer. As the Pixel 2 (non-XL) has this technology, some are upset that the more expensive, more premium phone does not.
I think, though, that these reviewers — and ultimately consumers — are missing a pretty major point. A quality screen is just one piece amongst many which go towards making the Pixel 2 XL a premium handset worthy of a not insignificant amount of your money. Not only does it run the latest, purest version of Android, but it has an independently-rated best in class mobile camera, and has some smart features which frankly feel like magic.
Does any of this matter?
You can run through the spec sheet for the Pixel 2 XL and rest quite comfortably in the knowledge that it’s the best in class. Is it significant that LG’s pOLED display used in the Pixel 2 XL isn’t a Samsung-made SAMOLED? I’d say no, it isn’t, because — and I do say this quite honestly — if I hadn’t read about the “issues” elsewhere, I simply would not have noticed any of them.
I’m not advocating blindly accepting a product as premium just because it’s marketed that way. Far from it. It’s important to be a critical consumer and to think for oneself rather than simply accepting what marketing materials say. The value proposition here is rather simple. Google are marketing the Pixel 2 XL as the best smartphone you can buy today in this price range, and in my opinion, they’re spot on.
The good news, though, is that if you think Google and LG’s work on the Pixel 2 XL isn’t good enough, you’ve got some choices. You don’t have to buy one, and if you do, Google’s working on an update which will address the most significant issue anyway.
If you remain worried enough that these niggling issues might impact your happiness with a purchase, why not head into a Telstra shop (where the Pixel range is already on display) and make up your own mind, instead of listening to the expert naysayers?
Now, let’s get on with the review, and stop wasting time kvetching over non-issues, shall we?